If you’ve been following my personal tales (including my dad’s broken wrist), you’ll know that I’m currently visiting Ponzi’s family in North Carolina. This is my first trip to North Carolina, to my knowledge – and I even crept into South Carolina while driving around with her mom today. We just got back from her father’s house, where we learned that two of his computers were out of commission (kinda). I usually don’t mess with a machine unless it’s in dire need of help or updating; I gave my parents’ computer a small speed boost by removing a few unnecessary services before leaving Iowa yesterday afternoon. Ponzi’s father has two PCs: both of which are running Windows 2000. One is having problems with the PPP drivers, the other is having issues running beyond the intial Windows 2000 boot option stages. I did as much as I could with the laptop, working with his current ISP (Netscape) to troubleshoot the problem. Turns out, I think the computer used to be connected to a LAN before it came into his posession – which would explain the error I kept receiving when trying to complete a valid dial-up connection (“720” was the code given to me by both the Netscape software and Windows DUN error dialog itself). Even if my reasoning is wrong, the Registry is somehow corrupted. I figured I’d just ship his ol’ Thinkpad home with me, reinstall Windows, then send it back.

Ponzi’s father also has a desktop machine which went belly up in recent months for some unknown reason. The BIOS was not recognizing the CPU, as its speed was somehow switched? I set the proper parameters and rebooted, then came to the classic Windows 2000 startup bar (that shows up just before the splash screen loads). However, just as it completes its brief cycle, the computer reboots itself. No matter which option I choose from the menu (called by pressing F8), the computer keeps resetting itself before it can get any further. I inserted a Windows Me boot disk, after trying to unsuccessfully create a boot disk in his working Windows 2000 machine (since I didn’t have the Windows 2000 install CD with me). The somewhat-outdated boot disk didn’t have the ATTRIB utility, so I found a Windows 95 boot disk in his caddy and tried that – but the tool didn’t really help, nor did SCANDISK. The hard drives seemed perfectly normal, as I could see all the data just sitting there – waiting to be accessed. Would I have to ship this machine back to our Seattle office, too? Not after I remembered Ubuntu:

“Ubuntu” is an ancient African word, meaning “humanity to others”. Ubuntu also means “I am what I am because of who we all are”. The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world. Ubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. It is developed by a large community and we invite you to participate too! The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Philosophy: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and alter their software in whatever way they see fit.

We only have a simple [free] WiFi connection at this Hampton Inn, but I’m downloading a “Live” ISO right now – planning on using ISO Recorder when it’s ready. If you’re not familiar with what a “Live CD” is, I’d recommend checking it out. This allows you, an expert or novice user, to try Linux on any capable PC without installing anything. Yeah, the entire operating system runs from the CD drive! It doesn’t touch the hard drive at all, keeping all current working (or non-working) systems in place. How amazing is that? Try it. Yeah, there are several distributions with Live CD options out there – but Ubuntu is the most user friendly, and the one I’m going to try with Ponzi’s father. If I have to leave those CDs in his machines permanently, at least he’ll be able to surf the Web, check his Web-based mail, and listen to the music he downloads. Otherwise, I gotta step through the pain of a Windows reinstallation just to give him these basic needs. Linux may very well be saving the day – we’ll see what happens when I can give ’em a spin in his trouble-laden computers. He may very well be running Linux instead of Windows, and be just as happy as he was before (if not moreso). I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve “needed” to use Linux to solve a PC problem. What about you?

[tags]windows,linux,pc,troubleshooting,computer,bootdisk,boot disk,live cd,iso,windows startup,windows problems[/tags]